Republicans Muscle Tax Cut Bill Through House

By: David Espo, Associated Press
By: David Espo, Associated Press

Washington, D.C. (AP) - Defiant Republicans pushed legislation through the House Tuesday night that would keep alive Social Security payroll tax cuts for some 160 million Americans at President Barack Obama's request - but also would require construction of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that has sparked a White House veto threat.

Passage, on a largely party-line vote of 234-193, sent the measure toward its certain demise in the Democratic-controlled Senate, triggering the final partisan showdown of a remarkably quarrelsome year of divided government.

The legislation "extends the payroll tax relief, extends and reforms unemployment insurance and protects Social Security - without job-killing tax hikes," Republican House Speaker John Boehner declared after the measure had cleared.

Referring to the controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline, he added, "Our bill includes sensible, bipartisan measures to help the private sector create jobs."

On a long day of finger pointing, however, House Democrats accused Republicans of protecting "millionaires and billionaires, `' and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., derided the GOP-backed pipeline provision as "ideological candy" for the tea party-set.

After the House vote, the White House urged Congress on in finishing work on extending the tax cuts and jobless aid. Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement that didn't mention the pipeline but renewed Obama's insistence that the legislation be paid for, at least in part, by "asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share" in higher tax levies.

Lawmakers "cannot go on vacation before agreeing to prevent a tax hike on 160 million Americans and extending unemployment insurance," he said.

Republicans mocked Obama's objections to their version of the bill.

"Mr. President, we can't wait," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, employing a refrain the White House often uses to criticize Republicans for failing to take steps to improve an economy struggling to recover from the worst recession in decades.

Voting in favor of the legislation were 224 Republicans and 10 Democrats, while 179 Democrats and 14 Republicans opposed it.

At its core, the measure did include key parts of the jobs program that Obama asked Congress to approve in September.

The Social Security payroll tax cuts approved a year ago to help stimulate the economy would be extended through 2012, avoiding a loss of take-home income for wage-earners. An expiring program of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless would remain in place, although at reduced levels that the administration said would cut off aid for 3.3 million.

A third major component would avert a threatened 27 percent cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients, a provision Republicans added to appeal to conservatives but one that the White House and Democrats embrace, too.

While the tax and unemployment provisions were less generous than Obama sought, he and Republicans clashed principally over steps to cover the estimated $180 billion cost of the measure, and on the proposed 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada through environmentally sensitive terrain in Nebraska to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Obama recently delayed a decision on granting a permit for the pipeline until after the 2012 election.

The payroll tax legislation was one of three major bills that Congress was struggling to finish before adjourning for the year, and by far the most contentious.

A measure covering Pentagon spending was ready for passage, and, separately, negotiators said they were close to a deal on a $1 trillion measure to fund most government agencies through the end of the budget year.

That deal was in limbo, though, with Obama and congressional Democrats using it as leverage to keep House Republicans at the table negotiating a final compromise on the tax and unemployment measure.

It was the final showdown of a year that once brought the government to the brink of a shutdown and also pushed the Treasury to the cusp of a first-ever default.

Those confrontations produced last-minute compromises.

This time, leaders in both parties stressed a desire to renew the unemployment tax cuts and jobless benefits that are at the core of Obama's jobs program.

Obama and most Democrats favor an income surtax on million-dollar earners to pay for extending the Social Security tax cut, but Republicans oppose that, saying it is a violation of their pledge not to raise taxes.

Instead, the House bill called for a one-year pay freeze and higher pension costs for federal workers, higher Medicare costs for seniors over $80,000 in income as well as other items to cover the cost.

Obama's veto message focused on economic issues - which unite Democrats - accusing Republicans of putting the burden of paying for the legislation on working families "while giving a free pass to the wealthiest and to big corporations by protecting their loopholes and subsidies."

Republicans drew attention at every turn to the pipeline, which is backed by some lawmakers in the president's party as well as by the blue-collar unions representing plumbers, pipefitters, electricians, carpenters and construction workers.

Estimates of the jobs that would be produced by pipeline construction vary widely but are in the thousands in a time of high national unemployment. The State Department estimated the total at about 6,000; project manager TransCanada put it at 20,000 directly, and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in debate on the House floor it was more than 100,000.

Democrats aimed their criticism at the bill's impact on those who would bear the cost.

Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the party's senior lawmaker on the Ways and Means Committee, displayed a placard that said "Seniors sacrifice: $31 billion. Federal workers sacrifice: $40 billion. Unemployed Americans sacrifice: $11 billion. Millionaires and billionaires sacrifice: $0."

The bill also "spends $300 million on a special interest provision that helps a handful of specialty hospitals while cutting billions from community hospitals," he said, referring to a part of the measure that will raise federal Medicare payments to doctor-owned hospitals.

Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, said he had an open mind about the pipeline but also said it had no legitimate role in the payroll tax bill.

Republicans argued otherwise.

Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the pipeline's construction would allow Canada to send one million barrels of oil a day into the United States, lessening domestic reliance on imports.

He said Canadian development of a pipeline is a certainty, and lawmakers needed to decide whether they wanted it to end up in the United States or "someplace like China."

As drafted by Republicans, the measure also would block the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing planned rules to limit toxic emissions from industrial boilers. Republicans said the regulation would be a job killer, and 41 Democrats supported an earlier stand-alone measure to prevent the administration from acting.

Other provisions to cover the cost of the legislation would repeal billions from the health care bill that Obama won from Congress last year when both the House and Senate were under Democratic control and from boosting fees that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge banks for backing their mortgages.

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  • by Susan Location: Tallahassee on Dec 14, 2011 at 01:21 PM
    The Republicans have put authorization for the Canadian pipeline in this bill. There have been huge protests to this pipeline, environmental concerns, and Obama has listened to the people. Dems won't authorize the pipeline right now. The bill needs to take out all references to the pipe so a jobs bill can pass. Obama already presented a jobs bill to Congress that included most of the provisions that are include in this bill. The problem with this bill is Repubs are trying to cram through the pipeline bill under the guise of jobs and tax cut extentions.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 03:00 PM in reply to Susan
      Like he listened to the people when the stimulus was passed. Phone calls to the WH and Congressional switchboards were running 98% against it, but we got it crammed down our throats anyway. Sorta like with Obamacare.
    • reply
      by huh? what? on Dec 16, 2011 at 11:36 AM in reply to Susan
      One good cramming doesn't deserve another?
  • by Tallynole Location: Tallahassee on Dec 14, 2011 at 11:43 AM
    Someone help my fuzzy memory... If you call the pipeline just a way to create jobs for the unemployment... ... What was the reasoning for the protest to high speed rail project in Florida again?!?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 01:32 PM in reply to Tallynole
      ROI. What are we getting for our money. With the high speed rail what we(Florida) get is a system that will always be a drag on our economy. The high speed rail will always have high operational costs and not enough ridership to even cover operating costs. With the pipeline we get a system that will last a long time and with a small operating cost that will pay for itself.
      • reply
        by Tallynole on Dec 14, 2011 at 06:09 PM in reply to
        Where do you get your facts?
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Dec 15, 2011 at 10:38 AM in reply to Tallynole
          Sunrail? Amtrack? Many other rails systems that get government grants to sustain their operations. If there was a viable need for high speed rail, we would have had it, and it would have been built by a private corporation. Private business won't touch it because they know there is no money to be made. Subways work in some areas because they have enough people commuting every day to cover expenses. Until it can be proven that it will support itself, it shouldn't be built in Florida.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 01:43 PM in reply to Tallynole
      Hey Fuzzy. The pipeline will generate revenue to support itself. The high speed rail will require an annual infusion of tax dollars to survive. Any more questions?
  • by Reagan Republican on Dec 14, 2011 at 09:48 AM
    Why would Pres. Obama not want to sign a bill in support of one of the largest single shovel ready projects and has the support of unions for middle class jobs? Why does it make any sense to continue to put American money in the pockets of foreign countries to rely on their oil?
    • reply
      by Tallynole on Dec 14, 2011 at 11:45 AM in reply to Reagan Republican
      High speed rail ring a bell?
      • reply
        by Reagan Republican on Dec 14, 2011 at 03:44 PM in reply to Tallynole
        @ Tallynole If you have ever done any research on high speed rails you would find that it is a high risk venture where the certainty of financial sustainability is not a definite outcome unlike the numerous pipeline ventures in America. This pipeline will benefit numerous states unlike the Florida high speed rail which MAY benefit a few cities.
        • reply
          by Tallynole on Dec 14, 2011 at 06:12 PM in reply to Reagan Republican
          Point is shut up about trying push this as a "job creation" venture... If you wanted to put people to work the high speed rail would have done exactly that. As for people claiming this "has to be done".. Why dont you do some research on the Trans Alaska pipeline and how much that decreased oil prices... Yes i have done my research, including the one from the adviser to the governor who basically admitted to falsifying the report that was used to kill the project...
        • reply
          by Reagan Republican on Dec 14, 2011 at 07:51 PM in reply to Reagan Republican
          @ Tallynole You are telling me to shut up?? What kind of respectful rhetoric do you subscribe to when you post? Are you saying that the Keystone Pipeline will NOT create jobs? Are you saying the Keystone Pipeline will NOT have financial sustainability? What research can I review to confirm your claim of zero job creation and negative financial sustainability? Most Americans are concerned about the production and the demand of oil in America and I would prefer to partner with our Canadian neighbors instead of foreign regimes. I never claimed this would decrease or increase the oil barrel price or barrel of oil equivalent (BOE) because there are many variables in the final production cost to consumers. I would appreciate your comments to validate why you oppose THIS bill in Congress?
        • reply
          by GV on Dec 15, 2011 at 05:15 AM in reply to Reagan Republican
          Tallynole,if that's the case,why don't we just take almost a trillion dollars and create jobs with that?Oh yeah,we already tried that and it failed miserably.I guess the republicans won't to create jobs that don't cost the taxpayers a quarter million dollars each.You probably don't care about that though because you don't pay taxes.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 12:06 PM in reply to Reagan Republican
      To hell with union thugs..
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 06:13 PM in reply to
        Yes, to hell with people being allowed to actually have a say in their lives... Why dont we all just work for walmart and get paid minimum wage?
    • reply
      by Tallynole on Dec 14, 2011 at 06:14 PM in reply to Reagan Republican
      Here is a question to you Reagan Republican.. Why couldn't they just pass the tax cut bill WITHOUT the oil pipeline.. Why did that HAVE TO BE part of the bill?
      • reply
        by Reagan Republican on Dec 14, 2011 at 08:04 PM in reply to Tallynole
        @ Tallynole Why not have JOB creation as a part of this bill instead of waiting until after the Presidential election for a decision on the Keystone Pipeline? It has had three years of environmental review and discussions with the delay being political to appease some extreme environmental groups.
  • by Just think about it on Dec 14, 2011 at 09:11 AM
    The Republicans have been running things for long enough time now for us to find out that they aren't doing any better. NOTHING will get done until we all work together for the betterment and stop the stupid-juvenile-idiotic inhouse bickering. Grow up people and put your big girl panties on, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 01:35 PM in reply to Just think about it
      The Democrats had 2 years(House Senate and President) to get whatever they wanted passed. They didn't get anything done. You can't blame the Republicans that have only had control of 1 branch of congress for 1 year.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 06:15 PM in reply to
        Oppose to the 8 years of failed Bush policies?... It takes longer then 2 years to fix that mistake..
        • reply
          by mc on Dec 15, 2011 at 02:48 AM in reply to
          How mant decades will it take to fix Obamas mistakes?O thats right He's torpedoing the economy on purpose to "cut" the U.S down to size. In his oppinion we are to big and are bullying the rest of the world
  • by Gerry Location: Tallahassee on Dec 14, 2011 at 08:43 AM
    For some, it is either the free market or socialism. In the real world, there are trusts and monopolies and they are often broken up (yes, gummint regulation) by the federal government. Teddy Roosevelt was known as a trust-busting Prez. Standard Oil, the late National Cash Register Company, and AT&T were once monopolies.
  • by Repubs are Bought and Paid For on Dec 14, 2011 at 07:53 AM
    Sickening. How much do you want to be the corporation that is over this pipeline is in the pockets of these disgusting conservative politicians (=lying thieves)??? Follow the sad that is what our Country has come to.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 08:47 AM in reply to Repubs are Bought and Paid For
      "so sad that is what our Country has come to" In the last three years... there, corrected it.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 07:41 AM
    The House has passed many bills that have been sent to the Senate only to be declared "Dead on Arrival". Harry Reid won't even allow a debate on these bills, just votes to table the item and hopes it will go away. Harry, take your ball and go home if that's what you want to do. I believe he won't debate any of the legislation presented by the Republican controlled House because it might contain something he agrees with and that simply cannot be allowed to happen.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 06:31 AM
    Haven`t all of the "regular citizens" had enough of this and are ready to put ALL of these people on the sidewalk and elect a whole new bunch that will understand they are to work together, stop the games, stop loading bills up with unrelated amendments and do what registered voters who elected them are to do.
    • reply
      by GV on Dec 14, 2011 at 07:52 AM in reply to
      What in the world is wrong with creating jobs?Why is it you liberals only want the government to spend billions of dollars to attempt to create jobs.You scared you may have to get a job?
      • reply
        by Jack on Dec 14, 2011 at 08:48 AM in reply to GV
        I too, am so tired of liberals and their reliance on the government. I guess by the government giving money away, they can secure votes. They need to go blow up that darn drone..
      • reply
        by Tallynole on Dec 14, 2011 at 11:41 AM in reply to GV
        My memory is a little fuzzy... What was the support in stopping the high speed rail project in Florida again?!? Wouldn't that have created jobs?
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 12:08 PM in reply to Tallynole
          It would have cost the state of Florida 3 billion dollars to match the federal dollars is why fuzzy..
        • reply
          by GV on Dec 14, 2011 at 12:33 PM in reply to Tallynole
          If that's the case,then why are the dems so against this and not the rail?But to answer your question,the rail would have been paid for with federal tax money that Fla would have to match,and it would cost Fla billions in the long run because it is about as useless as the turtle tunnel.I guess the dems do not want the pipeline because it actually would put people to work and not cost the taxpayers billions of dollars and it is also actually needed.
        • reply
          by I can be anonymous too on Dec 14, 2011 at 01:12 PM in reply to Tallynole
          Actually it was less then 1 billion and even then the person who created that estimate said it was fiction. It would have cost a lot less... How much are the tax payers forking over for this pipeline?!? Oh thats right an accurate analysis hasn't even been done...
  • by Republicans Suck on Dec 14, 2011 at 03:45 AM
    Republicans will hold the majority of Americans hostage to protect their rich donors and friends in the top 1% of earners. Will they give the common man a bailout or a little help in modifying their mortgages? You've got to be kidding. Then they want the "free market" to work. However, if the rich or big corporations want a little welfare in the form of tax incentives or legislation to give them unfair advantages - thats just fine by the Republicans. The hipocrisy is mindblowing and the thing that kills me is that most middle or lower class religious people identify themselves as Republicans when the party does nothing but walk all over them.
    • reply
      by GV on Dec 14, 2011 at 05:01 AM in reply to Republicans Suck
      What do you mean?The republicans in the house have passed the bill to extend the cuts and create thousands of jobs,and the senate will not pass it,and somehow you blame the republicans.How is it the republicans?It's the dems who will block it.
      • reply
        by Pete Zahut on Dec 14, 2011 at 07:15 AM in reply to GV
        What don't you get? The attached pipeline trash is what will make the Dems sink this sorry piece of trash legislation. In addition to constitutional amendments that 1) ban public financing of elections and 2) one that states that corporations are NOT individuals, we need one that states that a bill can concern only ONE item - no riders allowed. Disgusting politics - as usual .... and you "conservative" sheep (NONE of you are in the 1%) continue to let your "elected" (=bought) officials insure that the ultra-rich (who are NOT "job creators") stay that way - at YOUR expense.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011 at 07:43 AM in reply to Pete Zahut
          Blah, blah, blah..
        • reply
          by GV on Dec 14, 2011 at 07:50 AM in reply to Pete Zahut
          So what is wrong with creating thousands of jobs for the unemployed?You scared someone will offer you one?I thought the dems wanted to create jobs.Oh,they just want to fool you in to thinking that,but yet when the rebubs want to create jobs its called a sorry piece of trash legislation,but when obama wants to spend billions on trying to create jobs that never happens,you think it's the best thing since sliced bread.Boy you liberals sure are stupid.
    • reply
      by mc on Dec 14, 2011 at 06:32 AM in reply to Republicans Suck
      So you don't believe in the free market? You must believe in the socialist market. Ask the Chinese how thw socialist market works with everyone have their very own 10x10 foot cubicle to live in, making 68 cents a day and armed guards ushering them to where the govt. wants them to go. How much money has the top 1% taken from you from gun point?How much " free" money have you been given from the money forced from those who produce something, Forced through taxes.Put down your protest sign and go do something for yourself for a change.
  • by Your MaMa on Dec 14, 2011 at 03:40 AM
    Children, children, children.....Please play nice and share. I swear, my 2-year old twins have more common sense that all of you put together. REMEMBER guys, you are there for the betterment of EVERYONE and not yourselves or just one political group. PLAY NICE or go to your room and stay there until I tell you that you can come out.
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